New Idea For Rugby

Saturday showcased the gulf in skill and class between New Zealand’s All Blacks and every one else.  Argentina were in Hamilton for a Rugby Championship clash against the kiwis and were excellent in the first half.  Graham Henry’s influence as a technical director is paying off.  Los Pumas are playing an attractive brand of rugby and went toe-to-toe with the mightiest rugby team on Earth and held their own impressively.  The Argentines even led for large periods of that opening stanza before the hosts eventually edged in front and led 24-19 at the break.

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Photo credit: UAR/Dave Lintott

The men from the land of the long white cloud were unhappy with their first-40 showing and shifted up a gear (or several) in the second period leaving the visitors with no chance.  A stupendous display of total rugby saw Steve Hansen’s men run out 57-22 victors; a score line that depicts their brilliance as much as it is unfair on a South American side that were full value, especially in the opening 40 minutes.

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Photo credit: UAR/Dave Lintott

Matches like these are easy on the eye and it was great to see Daniel Hourcade’s men give it their all and a shame that the final score left them looking like passengers when in fact they were very good.

It further highlights how far ahead the New Zealanders are of every one else right now and I even suspect that Hourcade’s charges are a lot closer in overall quality at this moment to South Africa and Australia, than those two countries would like to admit.  The Springboks and Wallabies then played out a tough 23-17 game in Brisbane.  The Aussies would have been delighted to end a six-game run of defeats while the Boks were again their own worst enemy.  Neither side looks capable of troubling the All Blacks right now and so the sport’s current hierarchy sees England as the closest challenger to the world champions followed by a group of five or six that on any given day could be world number three.

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Photo credit: UAR/Dave Lintott

It also has me questioning the relevance of the Rugby Championship.  Let us be honest, the battle is for second place and it has been for 14 of the 21 seasons to date. Why not expand it to an eight-team event and include the three Pacific Island nations? The eighth team could be Japan or you could create a qualifying scenario whereby Namibia and Uruguay play-off for the right to feature in the tournament, or even include Zimbabwe and Chile. This expanded southern hemisphere championship would be akin to a Euro, Copa America or Africa Cup of Nations.  Now rugby does not have the numbers to justify continental competitions like they have in football but there is no reason why there could not be a southern hemisphere championship held every two years, with one host nation, or co-hosts.

This event would take place in even-numbered years so let us say that in 2015 there was a World Cup, 2016 would see this southern hemisphere tournament take place, 2017 features a British and Irish Lions tour, 2018 you would have another southern hemisphere championship and then in 2019 it is World Cup time again.

In the years where there is no hemispherical tournament, the countries could actually host each other in three-Test series and you could have a return to old-style tours.  Every one would play every one else home and away over a certain period of time.  The team hosting the Lions would not host anyone else that year in all likelihood but there could be time for an away tour. This kind of system would still see the different countries hosting each other, but in three-match Test series instead of annual once-off matches. The meaning is also likely to amplify since the current Rugby Championship’s outcome is generally a foregone conclusion and by the time the tournament is two-thirds of the way through, the overall winner is already known.

Fiji

Photo credit: Lorne Collicutt

My proposed tournament could have two groups of four teams, with semi-finals and a final. The event would be over in five weeks and can you imagine the boost to the sport if it was being co-hosted by Samoa, Fiji and Tonga?

It might be time for SANZAAR to sit down and reconsider the current Rugby Championship.  What I have suggested here could well be a better alternative.  Let’s talk.